Intimate portraits is not the time to save money!

I know it happens. I am not a photographer so naive, in the era of cheap DSLRs and smartphones, that I believe people are not often tempted or persuaded to take the inexpensive path and hire a friend, family member, or low-cost shoot-and-burn photographer for their family, high school senior, engagement or wedding portraits. However, with all the heartache you are unwittingly setting up for yourself, the risk is both relatively low and the damages relatively benign in the grander scheme of things. Sure you likely won’t be happy with the results, but the consequences will not likely be, in any resemblance of the literal word, devastating.

But, for all of the technological advancements and easy access to “good” camera’s these days, there is one form of photography you should never….NEVER…entrust to a friend, family member or shoot-and-burn photographer: Your boudoir portraits!

This marks the fourth (and final, for now) blog tinged with the theme of love for this, the month of love. With me, you had to know a love-themed blog involving our “You” by Abanathy Photography, LLC boudoir brand was coming. However, this one comes with a blinking “Danger” light as well.

Patrick "House" Abanathy
Patrick “House” Abanathy

You see, while boudoir photography is typically influenced by love (love for your significant other, love for yourself, or simply the love for beautiful portraiture), you might forgive me taking on more of a Gregory House M.D. tone in this blog as I warn against doing something foolish like bringing in an amateur to snap some sensual portraits of yourself.

The scenario is classic: You have always wanted boudoir portraits taken, but the courage to pose in your skivvies before a complete stranger, lack of time, and/or the price of a professional photographer always steered you away. Then, one day you and your bestie are discussing the topic when you have a brilliant idea! Why not take each other’s boudoir portraits? You could do each other’s hair and makeup, open some wine, and use your smartphone to snap some shots in your own bedroom while the husbands are out hunting for the day. It will be a fun, inexpensive girls’ day in, without strangers involved, right? Well, the shoot will be fun…

Let’s skip the fact your images are not going to be all that flattering. Bad lighting, a relatively inexpensive camera/lens, app-based photo editing software, and inexperience with poses are just a few contributors to this inevitable fail. Keep in mind, you are likely not going to want to upload these and run them through an Instagram filter, am I right? However, If I was going to harp on the low-quality portrait inevitability, the argument would not stretch far beyond the same old warning I give to young couples looking to save on their wedding photography.

Instead, let’s talk about security and privacy in the aftermath. Didn’t you take these with each other’s smartphones? Or did you sport for the inexpensive (yes $600 is inexpensive) DSLR? Either way, both of you likely have otherwise tantalizing images of each other on each others’ phones or, worse yet, only one of you gets to take the DSLR home! Yes, those portraits are now nestled right between those pictures of the family at Disneyland and grandma opening presents on her 83rd Christmas.

Now, you say: “Don’t worry. My phone is locked and nobody can access it but me.” Well, you…and your husband…and your 6-year-old who likely knows your password in case of an emergency and just enough about your phone to get him/her in trouble. And what happens if the phone is stolen and/or hacked? Then, later, there is the time when you, the gatekeeper, accidentally slides one image too far while showing grandma your Disneyland slideshow or accidentally attaches the wrong image to a message/text/tweet/post/etc. Yes, there is great opportunity for awkwardness in that future.

Now, you say: “Well, once we print them, we will delete them” Yes, once you find the time to print them (life always has a way of making things endlessly busy when we take on large personal projects at home), you may delete them. And don’t worry, it is easy to delete them. In fact, it should be as easy as remembering to delete those blurry shots of your dogs playing in the snow from 2010. Reality is: time slips away, images often do not.

So, now, you and your bestie, having foreseen this potential minefield, decide to check out some local photographers. Wow! Professional boudoir photographers are pricey! So you go searching Facebook instead and turn up several well-disguised, hobbyist shoot-and-burn photographers who darn near promise the moon for $50.

What they don’t promise, at $50 a pop (once again, quality issues aside), is due diligence in attorney review, liability insurance, and overthought, redundant privacy precautions anyone looking to make a living taking intimate portraits of clients should take. Not to mention maintaining dedicated websites, overhead, advertising and commitment to quality. Perhaps they found time on their lunch breaks at their day jobs during the week to ponder these nitty-gritty details. But who knows.

And this is to say nothing about getting a friend or family member to do it for free. If you thought lack of privacy and security with your own portrait devices could create a nail-biting situation, think of a third-party, non-professional, with little to lose, haphazardly uploading sexy images of you to their personal computer…aaaaand I’m pretty sure she has a husband and a six-year-old too. When it comes to “free”, there is the adage “You get what you pay for”. So, ask yourself: Do you really want these done for free?

Now, you say: “Aren’t you being a little bit harsh? This blog is supposed to be themed with love!” Well, boudoir photography is about love. There is no question about that and I have written many blogs about why I love boudoir photography (You want to be my boudoir photographer? But you’re a dude!), why one should not be afraid to have it done (You’re intimate portrait session: It’s like a day at the beach!), and why boudoir photography might find you bashful for no reason (Boudoir need not necessarily be nude). This is my passion and I have nothing but the greatest love for these sessions. This is why I would hate for someone to make a potentially costly mistake because they did not contemplate the actual weight of their decision to go the inexpensive route. Think of it as a warning created out of love. If inexpensive wedding photography does not turn out right or gets lost or stolen, it’s unfortunate. If inexpensive boudoir portraits are lost or stolen…Oh crap!

Truth is, when it comes to photography, especially boudoir photography, there should be a lot riding on the photographers’ shoulders (hence the higher prices). This is our livelihood, our passion, our career and our liability. We care, not only how the finished images look, but also the privacy and integrity of the relationship with our client. If something goes wrong, we can’t just say “Oh well” and head back to our day job.

Now, when all is said and done, If your pocketbook is going to drive your decisions when it comes to photography in your life, I can’t stop you from hiring inexpensive photographers. If you think $150 is going to get you a great set of wedding portraits, there is always our “I do…Again!” package to fix that. And if you think Aunt Jane is the best person to take your daughter’s senior portraits, don’t be surprised if you don’t see the proofs before she graduates college. However, if you are looking to have intimate portraits made for your anniversary, wedding, Christmas or Valentine’s Day, I beg of you to consider putting that money you saved on your wedding portraits toward a professional boudoir photographer. Peace of mind comes as part of the package! Treat yourself and it might just be one of the safest, fun decisions you will make in your life!

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